Planning a trip to Africa? Well you’ve come to the right place. I absolutely LOVE the planning side of travel. In fact, I think I love it almost as much as actually travelling. Well, maybe not quite that much! But I do love it!
I’ve been travelling to Africa for around 8 years now and the whole reason this site exists, is to help others do the same. So here are a few of my favourite resources to help you plan your own amazing and life-changing trip across the African continent!
This Africa planning resources page includes all kinds of information, from how to get around, to suggestions on where to sleep, what to pack and how to look after your health when you travel. It’s a work in progress and as I discover new cool places, hotels, apps and products to help you travel Africa, I’ll add them to the list!
Have a read of some of these posts, which you may find useful for general info on travelling in Africa.
- How to Plan Your Dream Trip to Africa (in 20 easy steps)
- My Top Africa Travel Tips
- 39 Things You Need to Know Before Backpacking Africa
- My 6 Month Africa Travel Budget
- How to Buy Travel insurance for High Risk Destinations & Activities
- The Beginner’s Guide to Backpacking East & Southern Africa
Trying to budget for your trip can be a bit daunting and it does very much depend on your style of travel and level of comfort. To help you budget, have a look at my Africa planning post and below you will find a list of my favourite resources for managing your money in Africa.
- My Six Month Africa Travel Budget – This post lists everything I spent during my 6 months travelling across Africa.
- XE Currency Converter – I use this site often when I’m planning and trying to work out how much everything will cost.
- Units Plus – This is a handy app for checking currency rates on the go.
- Western Union – Wester n Union is great if you need to receive money quickly when you’re in Africa. there are branches everywhere, so I would recommend you get this set up before you go just in case you need it!
- WorldRemit – I often have to transfer money to various African countries for safaris, hotels or activities. The company I use is WorldRemit. I like this because it allows you to send the exact amount of money and shows you the fees up front.
Flights to Africa aren’t always as expensive as people think they are, especially if you can be a little bit flexible on your dates.
- Skyscanner – I pretty much always use Skyscanner to find the best flights. I usually play about with the dates a little, to get the best deals. You can also set up flight alerts.
Train travel in Africa is one of my favourite things to do and a great insight into life in this fascinating continent. I always think it’s a shame that the rail network isn’t more extensive as it would be amazing!
The quality of the trains vary wildly, from the fancy Blue Train in South Africa, to the rickety Tazara train that runs between Zambia and Tanzania – but it’s always an adventure!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This is my favourite blog/info site for train travel. There’s even a great interactive Africa train map!
- Kenya Train Booking – This is the company I use to book my trains in Kenya (Nairobi to Mombasa) and have found them to be very reliable.
- The Tazara Train – I took this train a few years ago and whilst it’s not fancy in any way shape or form, it was an experience!
- The Blue Train – One of the most luxurious train journeys in the world, going from Cape Town to Pretoria.
- Desert Express – A different way to experience Namibia.
- Rovos Rail – The Pride of Africa, one of the fanciest trains in the world going through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. One day I will make this journey! One day…
- Africa by train: the continents best rail journeys (The Telegraph) – Great article about some of the journeys you can take in Africa.
Buses in Africa vary greatly! There are little public mini buses you pick up around town, bigger coaches that are good for long distances and hop-on, hop-off tourist buses. The companies below are the ones that I’ve found to be pretty reliable and good for long distance journeys.
A lot of buses are best booked in country, maybe a few days before or you can go through a booking agent. Many hotels and safari operators can also help you with bus tickets for a small fee.
Don’t be worried about bus travel in Africa, there is almost always a way to get where you need to go.
- Modern Coast Express – A reliable bus service throughout Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
- The Guardian Coach – Coaches around Kenya.
- Easy Coach – Buses in Kenya and Uganda.
- Jipa Connections – Buses in Kenya and Tanzania.
- Impala Shuttles – Transfers between Nairobi and the Kilimanjaro region. This is the company I used to travel from Moshi to Nairobi after my Kilimanjaro climb.
- The Riverside Shuttle Bus – Transfers between Nairobi, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Arusha and Moshi.
- All Africa Shuttles – Buses in Kenya and Tanzania.
- Jaguar Executive Coaches – Buses in Rwanda and Uganda.
- Trinity Express – Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Intercape – A reliable bus company that operates in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
- Baz Bus – Hop-on, hop-off backpacker buses in South Africa.
- Rome2Rio – Let’s you search for all different types of travel across Africa (and everywhere else in the world).
Small Group Tours
Rock My Adventure (formerly Helen in Wonderlust Tours) – So I may be a little biased here, but I think my tours are excellent! 😉
Tours are a great way to see Africa, especially the more remote places that are difficult to get to without your own transport. Plus they take a lot of the hassle out of finding accommodation and working out how to get from A to B.
The tours are designed to be experiential adventures that feel more like a group of mates going travelling together rather than a ‘tour’. But I take all the hard work out of it for you!
My trips are usually between 10 – 15 days and great for travellers who want to see and experience a lot in a short space of time (without feeling too rushed). They go to places a little bit off the usual overland route so you get the feel of a true backpacking experience. Sounds good right?
Upcoming Rock My Adventure trips:
- Rock My Tanzania, Zanzibar & Sauti za Busara Festival Adventure (30 January – 14 February 2018)
- Rock My Tanzania & Zanzibar Adventure (20 August – 5 September 2018)
- Rock My Tanzania & Zanzibar Adventure (6 – 22 September 2019)
- Rock My Kenya Adventure (17 February – 3 March 2018)
- Rock My Kenya Adventure (28 June – 12 July)
- Rock My Kenya Adventure (28 July – 11 August)
- Rock My Kenya Adventure (19 August – 2 September)
- Rock My Kenya Adventure (19 August – 2 September 2019)
Malawi, Zambia & Botswana
- Rock My Malawi, Zambia & Botswana Adventure (27 July – 10 August 2018)
- Rock My Malawi & Lake of Stars Festival Adventure (17 September – 2 October 2018) – COMING SOON!
- Rock My Malawi, Zambia & Botswana Adventure (5 – 19 August 2019)
Uganda, Rwanda & DRC
- Rock My Uganda, Rwanda & DRC Adventure (9 – 24 July 2018)
- Rock My Uganda, Rwanda & DRC Adventure (1 – 16 August 2019)
If you would like to be the first to know of any future tours, you can sign up to my mailing list HERE!
Overland Tour Companies
- Intrepid – Intrepid run tours to 28 different African countries so there’s a wide variety to choose from.
- G Adventures – Various tours between 3 and 54 days, on the more expensive end of the overloading scale.
- Acacia Africa – I’ve not used Acacia but I hear good things about them. They offer different types of overland tours between 3 and 58 days.
- Absolute Africa – I did a 73-day overland with Absolute Africa in 2009 and another shorter one in 2014. They’re a great budget option, with mostly camping and I’d highly recommend them.
Finding your perfect safari can be a little tricky. Hardly any safari companies (that I’ve found anyway) state their prices on the website. It’s usually a process of collecting quotes (which can be a bit of a pain) or using an agent to do so.
The prices vary wildly for safaris based on method of travel, number of people and type of lodgings. For instance, for a 3-day safari in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater, you’re looking at a minimum of $500 for budget camping, $900 – $1,500 for mid-range and $1,500 + for high-end.
SafariBookings.com – this is a great resource for finding a safari to suit your needs without searching for hours on Google. You can search by country, number of days, cost etc. They have expert reviews and consumer reviews. You still need to contact the companies for quotes, but, it does help to narrow don the initial search!
I usually cross-reference any of the reviews from Safribookings.com with Tripadvisor, you know, just to make sure!
Or you could have a look at the below some of the individual companies (ones that weren’t part on an overland tour) that I have used previously and highly recommend.
- Mara Explorers Camp & Backpackers – Owned by my friends Moses and Laura, this is the safari company for those looking to experience the Masai Mara authentically and on a budget. They also run safari tours to elsewhere in Kenya.
- Shemeji Safari & Tours – These guys do safaris throughout Tanzania and 15% of the profit goes to support Maasai women and girls.
- Amagara Tours & Travel – Owned by the guys that run Byoona Amagara on Lake Bunyoni, they run tours all over Rwanda and Uganda.
- Wilderness Safaris – I had a great few days with these guys in Liwonde National Park whilst working in Malawi a few years ago.
Malawi & Zambia
- Malawian Style – These are a great company who organise tours across Malawi and Zambia.
- Kiboko Safaris – I booked in with these guys to go on a safari in South Luangwa National Park, leaving from Lilongwe in Malawi. I was travelling alone and they paired me up with a dutch family and another solo traveller.
In the major towns and cities it’s usually pretty easy to find accommodation, however, finding good and reasonably priced places can be tricky and many of the good places fill up pretty quickly, especially during the high season, so it is advised to book in advance. If you’re overlanding and camping, this is less of a problem, but I still suggest you at least call ahead.
There are also a lot of places that you won’t find on any booking sites, so traveller or local are often the best for this or good old Google. Ask at any bar, in any campsite or lodge, in any part of Africa and someone will be able to point you in the right direction.
To help you along, I’ve listed my favourite booking sites here and a few of my favourite places to stay in the section below.
- Booking.com – This is my favourite site for booking my accommodation in Africa, as I find that they have the widest range.
- Hostelworld – However, I sometimes use Hostelworld if Booking.com doesn’t have somewhere suitable.
- Airbnb – Occasionally, I also use Airbnb and if you’re a new sign up, you’ll also get £30 credit using this link.
- Tripadvisor – I love using TripAdvisor to cross reference all the hotel reviews. They also show the hotel deals.
- HotelsCombined – This site compares all the different prices from the various booking sites.
Hotels, Lodges, Hostels & Campsites (I Really Love)
I love finding great places to stay in Africa, because I think that where you stay is a really important part of the travel experience. I like my accommodation to be a home away from home and I spend hours and hours looking for the right place – just call me the Goldilocks of accommodation.
I generally look for places that are cool and quirky, clean, have character, welcoming, eco-friendly, have a good common area or bar, great value for money and well-situated (either in the heart of the action or with an amazing view).
I’ve stayed at some great places during my years of travelling around Africa (I’ve also stayed at some rubbish places too), so to save you all the hard work, here are a few of my favourites to get you started. I’ve stayed at most of the places below and others are those that I arrange for my clients – but all have the Helen in Wonderlust seal of approval.
This list is not extensive, but I’m working on it and I’ll keep adding to the list as I discover new amazing places!
- Thebe River Lodge & Camping (Kasane) – This is a really lovely camp and lodge, perfect for a safari in Chobe National Park.
- Elephant Sands (between Kasane & Maun) – This is a great place for a rest stop in Botswana, famous for the elephants that come and drink from the waterhole in front of the lodge.
- Sedia Riverside Hotel (Maun) – Maun is the usual starting point for safaris into the Okavango Delta. We camped here during my overland tour and I remember it for having really nice bathrooms (when you are overloading nice bathrooms are few and far between), a nice pool and a nice bar with a pool table. It was a nice place to come back to after wild camping in the Delta.
- The Old Bridge Backpackers (Maun) – Great budget option just outside the Delta.
- Okavango Delta River Lodge (Maun) – This also a good option in Maun. All of the hotels can organise day trips or overnight excursions to one of the temporary camps inside the Delta.
- Anga Afrika (Nairobi) – This is a gorgeous camp in Karen on the outskirts of Nairobi.
- Wildebeest Eco Camp (Nairobi): A great camp that is perfect for groups, families and couples.
- Mara Explorers Camp & Backpackers (Masai Mara) – This is one of my top places to stay in all of Africa. Run by may friends Moses and Laura, this place is really great for those looking for a reasonably priced safari and a lot of fun.
- Angama Mara (Masai Mara) – This is the place to have a true ‘Out of Africa’ experience.
- Naiberi River Campsite & Resort (Eldoret) – Nice camp with good facilities and a cool bar.
- Voyager Beach Resort (Mombasa) – beautiful resort, right on the beach in Mombasa.
- Tulia House Backpackers (Mombasa) – The rooms are pretty basic, but this place is close to some of the cool spots in town, has a nice pool and bar and is always a lot of fun.
- Stilts Backpackers (Diani Beach) – Great budget friendly backpacker place, close to the beach and Forty Thieves beach beach bar (try the pizza – yum).
- Diani Blue (Diani Beach) – lovely mid-range hotel right on the beach, situated in a great location near to the action.
- AfroChic (Diani Beach) – This is one of the most gorgeous places to stay in all of Kenya! The whole place is just exquisite and right on the beach.
- Distant Relatives Ecolodge & Backpackers (Kilifi) – I absolutely love this place, the vibe is cool, it’s full of nice people and if you go down to the beach at night, you’re in for a big surprise – bioluminescence in the water!
- Kiboko Town Hotel (Lilongwe) – Really nice hotel in the centre of Lilongwe. I used to come here to work (good WiFi) and they have a nice restaurant.
- Mvuu Camp (Liwonde National Park) – I stayed here with one of my groups when I was working as a guide. Liwonde is beautiful and whilst Mvuu is upmarket, they also have space for camping so it can be very reasonable. They also have a pool and warthogs running around. Mvuu means hippo in Chichewa, on of Malawi’s main languages.
- Mushroom Farm (Livingstonia) – One of my favourite backpackers in Africa, this is a beautiful eco lodge with amazing views over Lake Malawi.
- Fisherman’s Rest (Blantyre) – I stayed here for about a month when I was working in Malawi and it was such a lovely, serene beautiful environment.
- The Funky Cichlid (Cape Maclear) – Named after the fish found in the lake (pronounced sic-lid), this is an awesome hostel right on the lake.
- Fat Monkeys (Cape Maclear) – Really fun backpacker place in gorgeous Cape Maclear.
- Domwe & Mumbo Island (Cape Maclear) – Any fancied playing Robinson Crusoe on your own private island? I’ve only stayed on Domwe, but it was amazing! Like being a pirate.
- Ngepi Camp – One of my favourite camps in Africa because, well, it’s a little bonkers! There’s a pool in the river, his and hers toilets and cool showers under the stars. This is just over the border from Botswana.
- Tsumeb Backpackers (Grootfontein) – Well priced backers in Tsumeb near to Grootfontein.
- Namutoni Camp (Etosha) – On our first night in Etosha, we stayed in Namutoni in the north-east of the park. We camped but they also have rooms.
- Okaukuejo Camp (Etosha) – We stayed at Okaukuejo, in the south-west of the park on the second night. They have a floodlit water hole where we saw animals drinking.
- Mowana Mountain Camp (Twyfelfontein) – Gorgeous place in the heart of Damaraland.
- Brandberg Rest Camp (Uis) – We just stayed the night here but it was nice, quite basic, but friendly.
- Olive Grove Guesthouse (Windhoek) – A great and stylish little place.
- Windhoek Gardens Guesthouse (Windhoek) – Wonderfully quirky, just the way I like ’em.
- The Stiltz (Swakopmund) – A little out of town (that’s kind of nice) is this cute and quirky guesthouse where all the chalets are on stilts. And there’s great views – my kind of place!
- Skeleton Beach Backpackers (Swakopmund) – Nice, cheap option in a good location.
- Hotel Gruner Kranz Swakop Lodge (Swakopmund) – This is a great place for backpackers who want to be in the thick of the action. There’s a night club so it can get a little loud, but if you can’t beat em’, join em’.
- The Delight (Swakopmund) – Gorgeous mid-range option, beautifully quirky.
- Sesriem Campsite (Sossusvlei) – Basic campsite but a great spot to ensure you are one of the first to get to Dune 45 for sunrise and beat the crowds. We actually went at sunset and had it all to ourselves.
- Fish River Lodge (Fish River Canyon) – If you are after a beautiful place to stay in a magnificent location then this is for you, however it does come at a premium. But why not treat yourself, especially if you’ve been overloading for a while!
- Hobas Campsite (Fish River Canyon) – For those on more of a budget, head to Hobas Campsite. It’s pretty basic, but good for a stopover and they do have some chalets too. Popular with the overland crowd.
- Hôtel des Mille Collines (Kigali) – This is the hotel you may remember from the film Hotel Rwanda.
- Yambi Guesthouse (Kigali) – Great budget option for backpackers.
- INZU Lodge (Gisenyi) – Great little lodge, really pretty! Ask for the rooms at the top for the best views.
- Hotel Paradis Malahide (Gisenyi) – A big favourite in Gisenyi due to its position right on Lake Kivu.
- Amahoro Guesthouse (Ruhengeri/Musanze) – Good budget option for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. An even cheaper option is Central Pastoral de Fatima.
- La Locanda (Ruhengeri/Musanze) – A lovely and friendly mid-range option for gorilla trekking!
- Fiddlers Creek Campsite (Orange River) – Fun campsite just over the border from Namibia. Where I learned the Springbok drinking game!
- The Backpack (Cape Town) – Beautifully decorated, fair trade and in a good location. A great place for meeting other travellers.
- 33 South Backpackers (Cape Town) – Cool place with a lovely vibe.
- Ashanti Lodge (Cape Town) – A bit of a Cape Town institution and usually the start or end point for most overland journeys. This is a great, reasonably priced place, always fun and they also have a tour company too!
- Azamare Guesthouse – Stylish hotel overlooking stunning Camps Bay.
- Hermanus Backpackers (Hermanus) – Had a lovely stay here with the hubby and went whale watching nearby.
- The Wild Farm Backpackers (Wilderness) – We stayed at The Wild Farm Backpackers, which is a cosy place with a great view.
- Nature’s Valley Rest Camp (Tsitsikamma) – This is a lovely rustic lodge, where we had a nice 1 night stay. Near to Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bungee jump in South Africa and the 4th highest in the world.
- Curiosity Backpackers (Johannesburg) – Nice hostel in a great and safe location. A good place to start or end your trip.
- The Secret Garden (Moshi) – I kind of don’t want to even tell you about this place because it’s so lovely and I want it to stay secret, but that wouldn’t be fair would it?
- More Than a Drop (Moshi) – This is an amazing guesthouse and social enterprise. Love love love this place!)
- Masai Camp (Arusha) – Basic but fun camp, popular with overlanders and backpackers.
- Onsea House (Arusha) – Beautiful place, at the higher end of the scale. Even if you don’t stay here, perhaps go for a meal.
- Arusha Coffee Lodge (Arusha) – One of the loveliest places to stay in Arusha. It’s not cheap though, so
- Drifters Lodge (Pangani) – If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Pangani that’s nice but reasonably priced, then Drifters is a great choice.
- Pangani Cliffs Lodge (Pangani) – This is a great mid-range option, for those who want a little extra but don’t want to break the bank.
- The Tides Lodge (Pangani) – If you’re looking for somewhere a bit fancier, then The Tides Lodge is a great choice, right on the beach with beautiful rooms and pool area.
- Firefly (Bagamoyo) – This is a cute guest backpackers, perfectly situated in the main part of town, near the beach and close to Poa Poa restaurant. One of my favourite backpackers in Africa.
- Moyo Mmoja (Bagamoyo) – A great budget option, nothing fancy and there’s no restaurant or pool, but staying here you’ll feel part of the community. This is just round the corner from where I lived at Baga Point (where you should go for a beer from a container). You’ll often find long-term travellers here and NGO workers, so you’re bound to make local friends.
- The Slow Leopard (Dar es Salaam) – Clean and modern dorms and they have great food and a popular bar. In a great location!
- Secrets Guesthouse (Entebbe) – Great, well-priced guesthouse.
- Karibu Entebbe (Entebbe) – Lovely guesthouse, well located and vary convenient for the airport.
- Fat Cat Backpackers (Kampala) – Great value and well situated in Kampala. great place to meet other solo travellers.
- Red Chilli Hideaway (Kampala) – Another popular spot, good for meeting other travellers. They also run a good safari company too.
- Nile River Explorers Camp (Jinja) – My little home away from home where I’ve spent many a happy day and night at this place. This is the best place to stay if you want to go white water rafting.
- Hairy Lemon (Hairy Lemon Island) – Great little island resort on the River Nile.
- Gorilla Friends Resort Campsite (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) – Budget friendly camp which is a great place to stay when going gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. On the east side.
- Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) – If you’re looking for somewhere really special to stay whilst you are going gorilla trekking, this is the place to be.
- Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) – Really nice camp, with beautiful views over the forest in the west .
- Mahogany Springs (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) – Another nice pick for Bwindi, in the north.
- Marafiki Safari Lodge (Queen Elizabeth National Park) – Beautiful Lodge with great views! we’re staying here on my Uganda trip, you should come!
- The Bush Lodge (Queen Elizabeth National Park) – Rustic style lodge, where elephants often come into the camp.
- Kibale Forest Camp (Kibale National Park) – Lovely lodge, perfect location for chimpanzee tracking.
- Mama Rula’s (Chipata) – Nice camp for a stopover and a good meal. This won’t happen to everyone, but this is where I met the Zambian President at the time, Rupiah Banda, who was there having dinner – you know, as you do. The lady who owns it, Beatrix is lovely!
- Croc Valley Camp (South Luangwa National Park) – I absolutely love it here and this is where the elephants crashed my pool party if you remember one of my early posts.
- Marula Lodge (South Luangwa) – Absolutely brilliant for backpackers on a budget.
- Flat Dogs Camp (South Luangwa) – Slightly fancier than Croc Valley and Marula, great food.
- Lusaka Backpackers (Lusaka) – Formerly Chachacha Backpackers, this is a cheap and simple hostel that is always filled with a fun crowd.
- Jungle Junction (Bovu Island) – You will always have a great time at this little place, serene in the week and usually filled with partying NGO workers on the weekends.
- Jollyboys (Livingstone) – Livingstone is one of my favourite places in the world and Jollyboys is pretty much the hub of the backpacker action in town and they have a lovely pool.
- Fawlty Towers (Livingstone) – Really nice backpackers, right in the centre of town.
- The Royal Livingstone (Livingstone) – No trip to Victoria Falls would be complete without a trip to the Royal Livingstone. Even if you don’t stay, have afternoon tea and sundowners by the Zambezi.
- Emerson Spice Hotel (Stone Town) – One of the loveliest hotels I’ve ever stayed in and very Zanzibari. Lovely rooftop restaurant.
- Dhow Palace Hotel (Stone Town) – A good, mid-range hotel.
- Kendwa Rocks (Kendwa) – Great for solo travellers and home to the fanous Full Moon Party.
- Red Monkey Lodge (Jambiani) – Beautiful beach lodge in Jambiani. The place to be on a Monday night.
- Upendo Zanzibar – Super cool and beautiful villa lodge in Michamvi, facing The Rock Restaurant.
- Fumba Lodge (Fumba) – Perfect place for honeymooners in the south of the island.
- Flame Tree Cottages (Nungwi) – Really lovely mid-range property, a great little haven.
- Butiama Beach (Mafia Island) – Not actually on the main island, but worth a mention! This is a gorgeous boutique hotel on Mafia Island.
Health & Safety
These sites offer a great starting point to ensure your health is protected whilst travelling in Africa. I go into detail my post, My Top Africa Travel Tips however, I strongly advise that you seek the advice of your doctor or a specialist travel clinic before you travel to Africa to ensure you are covered for everything.
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office – I check on here for any warning about the places I am visiting.
- World Health Organisation – The major authority on travel health everywhere in the world.
- The Travel Doctor – Lot’s of useful information for what vaccinations and medications you may want to consider, by country or region.
- Nomad Travel Clinic – This is where I go to get my injections in the UK (well the ones I can’t get free from my doctors).
- NHS Malaria Prevention and Treatment – General advice, what it says on the tin!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Good information about Yellow Fever and the countries at risk
- World Health Organisation Yellow Fever Info – A list of all countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and/orcountries requiring yellow fever vaccination.
It’s so important that you have travel insurance when travelling through Africa to ensure you are covered in case of emergencies. Before you buy insurance, have a quick read through my guide on how to buy travel insurance for high risk destinations and activities.
- World Nomads – These guys offer a great range of travel insurance for all of your adventurous, overland and backpacking needs.
Finding a good and worthwhile volunteering project can be a bit tricky, so here’s a few suggestions.
- Grassroots Volunteering – Volunteer opportunities within NGO’s and social enterprises.
- Orphanage tourism: help or hindrance? (The Telegraph) – An interesting article discussing the ethics of orphanage volunteering.
- Soft Power Education – A great initiative based in Jinja,Uganda. I volunteered here for a few weeks in 2011.
- The Baobab Home – A fantastic initiative in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. I worked here for a while in 2009 and it’s a great charity.
- The Book Bus – My first intro to Africa was volunteering with these guys. It’s not cheap but is a great project that isn’t detrimental to the community.
You can obtain most visas for East, Southern and North Africa on arrival at the border or airport, however there are always exceptions to the rule. Most West African visas should be obtained in advance. To check on the latest situation in the country you are visiting you can check out these links, if in doubt check with the local embassy in your country.
Just always make sure you have 6 months left on your passport and enough free pages to get you through your trip.
- Project Visa – This is a great resource to get information on the visas you need for every country.
- East Africa Tourist Visa – Info about the East Africa Tourist Visa from the Kenyan tourist board.
- East Africa Tourist Visa – Info on the East Africa Tourist Visa from the Rwandan government.
- eCitizen – Info on how to apply for your Kenya visa in advance. It’s pretty straightforward.
- Maps.me – Great offline maps app, useful for when you are in the middle of nowhere.
- Google Maps – I pretty much always use Google maps to plot my routes.
What To Pack
Here are my top tips for what to pack to ensure you have a fun, comfortable and prepared trip to Africa!
- What to Pack for Backpacking in Africa – A general packing list for all Africa travel, will work for men or women (boys you can decide if you take a bra or not, the roads are pretty bumpy).
- Kilimanjaro Packing List – When climbing Kilimanjaro it’s good to be prepared. Even if you don’t read the packing list, take these tips; wear in your boots, bring plasters and spare socks, drink lots of water, have a warm sleeping bag and go ‘pole-pole’ (slow in Swahili).
Having a good camera is really important (well it is to me anyway). On my first trip to Africa, I took a tiny point and shoot. I soon realised that wasn’t going to cut it. So I bought a better one, which my parents sent out to me. Then it broke! Devastated. Hence why I have very few Southern Africa pictures on my site.
I’ve since had a few cameras, and what I do know is that you don’t need a fancy camera to get great pictures in Africa. But what you do need is a sturdy camera (one that handles dust, heat and cold well) and a good zoom.
I’d also recommend learning how to use your camera properly BEFORE you go, so maybe think about enrolling in a photography course if you are serious about getting great pictures. Just be aware that it’s hard to get those shots you see in National Geographic because those photographers wait for days, sometimes weeks to get those amazing shots.
Below is a list of what I use, however, I really think that cameras are a personal choice, and you should always try before you buy so you know what you are getting into, even if you then buy online later.
- Camera – I use an Olympus OM-D E-M10, which has served me well, however it’s a few years old now and I am due for an upgrade to the Mark II version.
- Standard Lens – Most of the time, you’ll probably just use the standard lens that comes with your camera. Mine’s 14 – 42mm.
- Wide-Angle Lens – A wide angle lens isn’t necessary, but it’s great for indoor photography where you need to show space and also capturing big landscapes.
- Telephoto Lens – I use this to help me getclose ups of all the animals when on safari.
- Bridge Camera – Unless you are an avid photographer or blogger, you really don’t need a fancy camera and 3 lenses. On my second long stint in Africa in 2012, I just had a Sony bridge camera and it took amazing shots. The zoom is incredible.
- GoPro HERO4 – Again, not an essential but great to take white water rafting and bungee jumping and it’s pretty Africa proof.
- GoPro 3-Way Mount – The queen of selfie sticksthat also doubles as a tripod.
- GoPro Remote – I have a remote for my GoPro which is really handy.
- Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography – If you don’t go on a photography course before you go, this book is great resource to give you a bit of an understanding about the principals of travel photography and how to use your camera.
- Lonely Planet – I absolutely love Lonely Planet guides and travel with one pretty much everywhere I go!
- Bradt – I also have a few Bradt guides too and find that they are really nice and detailed.
Groups & Forums
- Backpacking Africa Facebook Group – I help to manage the admin on this group and it’s always a great place to ask for recommendations for places to stay, safari companies, how to get around or find travel buddies. You’ll find that there are a lot of well-travelled Africa lovers in this group so you’ll usually get the help you need! I suggest you join immediately!
Cool & Useful Apps
- SkyView – Impress your friends with your knowledge of the night sky. And believe me, you’ll see a lot of it in Africa!
- Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa – Do you know your Lilac-breasted Roller from your African Hoopoe? With this app you will!
- Maps.me – Great offline maps app, useful for when you are in the middle of nowhere.
- XE Currency Converter – I use this site often when I’m planning and trying to work out how much everything will cost.
- Units Plus – This is a handy app for checking currency rates on the go.
Books About Africa
I love all things African, so it should come as no surprise that I like to read all things African too. Here’s a few of the books that have kept me going, both on long African bus journeys and also during my time away from the continent.
- DON’T RUN, Whatever You Do: My Adventures as a Safari Guide by Peter Allison
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark Owens
- Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation by Susan Williams
Democratic Republic of Congo
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher
- Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
- An African Love Story: Love, Life and Elephants by Daphne Sheldrick
- Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen)
- Born Free by Joy Adamson
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann
- A Primate’s Memoir: Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa by Robert Sapolsky
- The Last Lions by Beverly Joubert
- The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba
- The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
- Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Roméo Dallaire
- A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier by Ishmael Beah
- Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden
- The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence by Martin Meredith
- The Last Train to Zona Verde: Overland from Cape Town to Angola by Paul Theroux
- The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life by Ryszard Kapuściński
- Swahili For The Broken-Hearted by Peter Moore
- Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux
- Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman
Films & Documentaries About Africa
- Out Of Africa
- The Constant Gardener
- The Ghost and the Darkness
- Born Free
- The First Grader
- African Cats
- The Power Of One
- District 9
- Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
- Lions of Sabi Sand: Brothers in Blood
- The Lion King
- Lord of War
- Tribe – Bruce Parry
- Africa – David Attenborough
- Walking the Nile – Levison Wood
- Long Way Down
- Top Gear: The Great African Adventure
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